Cosplay Tutorials: Foam Mask Making

Want to cosplay your favorite character but need one of those tight fitting eye masks to do it? Here’s an easy way to make any kind of mask you can think of using foam!

Materials/Tools

  • Craft foam or thin EVA foam
  • Small X-acto knife
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler/Square
  • Measuring tape for fabric (optional)
  • Dremel (optional)
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Heat Gun (a hair dryer will work in a pinch)
  • Plastidip
  • Spray paint
  • Clear coat

 

Step 1: Make your Pattern

As with most projects, you’ll need a pattern before you can get started.  Start by measuring how wide you want your mask to be.  A fabric measuring tape is great for this because you can simply take the measuring tape and measure your face from one of where you want the mask to sit to the other.  You can do it with a ruler as well, but since rulers generally don’t bend its a bit harder.  After that, measure how tall you want your mask to be.

Once you have those measurements, use them to create a template for the mask size on your paper.  Draw one line as long as your mask width and then draw another intersecting it for the mask height.  You can also draw a box around these lines as well to make it easy to keep the mask pattern to size.

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Now, you can start drawing!  If you’re mask is symmetrical, you’ll only need to draw one side.  Just go ahead and sketch until it looks right!

It may seem a bit time consuming to do so much preparation just to draw a pattern, but if you do you’ll get a perfectly sized pattern every time!

Once you’re happy with the shape of the mask, you can transfer the side you just drew over to the other.  Start by folding your pattern right down the center.  To start, I fold it over so the pattern is on the outside as you see in the first picture.  This is because with the guidlines it is easier to get the fold perfectly in the center.  Then, I open it back up and fold it on the same line so that the pattern is on the inside of the folded paper.

Then, just trace over the lines onto the opposite side of the paper.  This will only work if you use pencil! Putting pressure on the lines makes the graphite transfer over to the other side of the paper, giving you a perfectly symmetrical pattern!

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Last, just cut your pattern out!  I use scissors for the outside and a small X-acto knife for the inside.

Step 2:  Cut out foam

The next step is to transfer your pattern to foam and cut it out.  I use EVA foam in 6mm thickness.  You can use craft foam as well with similar results, but craft foam is thinner and more flimsy.  Its still a good alternative if you don’t have thin EVA foam or don’t want to buy some.

I used a pencil to trace my pattern and sharp X-acto knife to cut it out.  Make sure the place you use is sharp!  If its not, you won’t get as clean of a cut line.

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Step 3 (Optional): Clean up your edges

This step isn’t 100% necessary, but it does help give your mask a clean, finished look.

Take a Dremel with a sanding wheel and very carefully go over the edges of your mask to clean them up.  Sometimes your cut lines aren’t always perfectly smooth, so doing this well help smooth them out and clean them up.  Be sure to use a slow setting on your Dremel to keep it easy to control.

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You can give your edges a bevel using the Dremel as well!  I like to do this to make the edges look rounded.  I did this on the outside edges of my mask, but left the insides of the eyeholes as is.

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I like to use a sanding wheel to get the shape (as seen above) and then a grinding wheel to clean things up and smooth things out further (as seen below).

Step 4: Heat and form

Next up is heat forming!  This is necessary to get the proper shape to your mask, plus the heat will seal the foam so that it takes paint better later.

Just take a heat gun (a hair dryer will work in a pinch) and heat the foam.  You’ll notice the foam start to curl a bit and develop a slightly different sheen.  This is normal, but be sure not to heat it too much or you may alter the foam beyond repair.  I usually use my heat gun set at 600 degrees for 6mm foam, but you may need to use less for craft foam.

Keep the heat gun moving as well!  You don’t want to concentrate the heat only on one spot.  Heat the whole thing!  When it’s ready to form, it will bend very easily and be warm to the touch.

Once your mask is fully heated, go ahead and form it right to your face! Hold it in place until it cools, and you’ll have a perfectly fitted mask! Be sure the bend it around the bridge of your nose too to get that perfect fit!

Step 6: Paint

Now its time to paint!  However, you’ll need to prep the mask before you actually start painting if you want the best results.  there is a number of different products you can use to prep foam before painting, but my personal favorite is Plastidip.

Plastidip comes in a few different colors (I use black and white regularly) and is basically a rubber coating in a spray can.   Its great as a primer for foam because bonds well to the surface and remains flexible.  You can paint Plastidip with ease as well.

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Its best to do multiple thin coats of Plastidip rather than one thick layer.  Think coats dry quickly and you shouldn’t have issues with drips or runs.  I usually use 3-5 coats of Plastidip before painting.

Once the primer is dry, you can paint!  You can use a variety of different paints but I personally like to use acrylic paints or spray paints.  Acrylic paint is fairly flexible, so its less likely to crack severely if your mask bends.  Spray paint is fast and easy, but it may not be as flexible, which means you may have issues with cracking.  If you’re going with spray paint, try to get a higher quality paint, and always test things out on scrap pieces before committing to your finished product!  I have very good luck with Rustoleum brand paints for plastics and Dupli Color automotive paints.

For my mask, I use Dupli Color Perfect Match.  Its for cars, but it works very well for cosplay purposes too.

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Once again, its always better to do multiple thin coats than one thick coat.  I used 3 coats for my mask.

Note:  With my particular paint, the end result dried very dull in comparison to the freshly sprayed wet paint.  As you can see above, the top right photo was freshly sprayed while the bottom right photo is after it dried.  This is not an issue and is easy fixed with a clear coat.  

After the paint is dry, you can add a clear coat to protect the paint and bring out the shine!  HOWEVER, you need to be absolutely sure that whatever clear coat your using is comparable with the paint you used.  If not, you can ruin your paint and have to start all over.  Some paints don’t mix well with each other and layering them will cause cracking and issues with drying,  So, in short, if you’re using an enamel paint, you need to use enamel clear coat.  If you’re using a lacquer paint, you need a lacquer clear coat.  There are plenty of multipurpose clear coats available as well, but in my experience they mostly work well with multipurpose paints.

That being said, acrylic paints from a tube are usually pretty forgiving and take may kinds of clear coat well.  Its mostly spray paints you need to watch out for.  Just be aware of what kinds of paints you’re buying and make sure they are comparable with each other.

My paint was a lacquer, so I’m using an acrylic lacquer to clear coat it.

 

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Step 7: Wear it!

Last, you’ll need to come up with a way to wear your mask.  There are many ways you can do this, so pick a method that works for you!

You can add elastic straps, ribbons to tie around your head, or use straps with Velcro attachments! You can even glue the thing right to your face with prosthetic adhesive, which is the route I took.

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If you use straps of some sort, you can glue them to the inside of the mask, poke holes in the corners to string them though, or just loop them through the eyeholes.  Just do whatever you feel works best!